A lost painting by renowned pop artist Roy Lichtenstein was sold at auction in Virginia last week, much to the delight of both the art world and its owner.
The painting, entitled 'The Statesman' and dating from 1951, had originally been purchased in the early 60s for a mere $27.50 at a local art auction and had spent the last 42 years hung on a living room wall.
Its former owner, retired school teacher Enid Liess, had been given the painting as a house-warming gift for her new apartment. Liess had originally been dismayed when the bidding strayed above her $25 limit, but her competition turned out to be a friend who intended the painting as a gift for her.
Liess had been aware of Lichtenstein's work at the time, but not his importance, and when she decided to sell the painting earlier this year she had contacted Jack Cowart at the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation to authenticate it.
They were overjoyed at the discovery, as they had spent decades trying to discover the missing work's whereabouts.
"Upon seeing the painting, Jack Cowart literally danced around my living room," Enid said. "He was so happy to have located it."
The Lichtenstein foundation knew who had originally purchased the work in 1951 from the John Heller Gallery in New York, but beyond that the ownership trail had been a mystery until now.
At auction the painting was once again the subject of some competitive bidding, but thankfully for Enid Leiss none of the prospective buyers had a limit of $25.
It eventually sold to an anonymous collector for $110,000 (excluding buyers premium), giving Enid a rather impressive return of 399,900% on her original investment.
Enid Liess had a lifetime of enjoyment from her painting as well as an unexpected financial reward. As the story proves, investing in art that you love can be just as important as looking for something with potential value. But it always helps if it turns out to be a hidden masterpiece.
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